Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has been elected as the first female head of the African Union Commission.

Durban - Registration of Africa's people would promote the movement of people between countries, newly-elected AU Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Wednesday.

It would also help the continent plan its development, she said on the eve of the Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics, which begins in Durban on Thursday.

“Up to now there has not been a uniform civic registration across the continent. You can't plan for development if you don't register births and marriages and all the important dates (in people's lives).

“Civic registration and vital statistics will aid integration and assist in the free movement of people between countries.”

She said the conference would assess progress made with civic registration since the last one, held in Ethiopia two years ago.

Some 42 ministers from African countries were expected to be in attendance, along with high-ranking authorities from countries not represented by ministers.

President Jacob Zuma was scheduled to officially open the conference on Thursday. At present, 90 percent of births in South Africa were registered with authorities. In other African countries the figure was as low as 10 percent, according to Dimitri Sanga, the director of African Statistics at the UN's Economic Commission on Africa (Uneca).

Uneca had been involved in assessing the state of civic registrations across the continent for the past two years, and was co-hosting the conference.

Sanga said some African countries still used registration methods laid down by colonial authorities more than 50 years ago. - Sapa